“There’s More Than One of Everything”
May 12th, 2009
I wrote a piece a while back about the ways in which Fringe sits between the procedural and the serial, with episodes that feel heavily formulaic and others that are heavily serialized and almost feel like a different show. “There’s More Than One of Everything,” as a finale, sits as the latter, an engaging with huge ideas, long-gestating character reveals, and the central “reality” that the show has been dealing with.
But what makes this episode work is that it didn’t come after a string of your run of the mill procedural episodes: by spending more or less the entirety of the post-hiatus period, which I haven’t been blogging about as I’ve been forced to play catchup more than once, balancing these two elements more effectively than in the first part of the season, the show has found its footing and was capable of delivering this finale without feeling as if this was an out of the blue burst of serialized interest to a show that too often falls on its procedural elements.
So when the scene eventually arrives when all of the individual cases suddenly tie together to help Olivia solve the true motivations of the infamous Mr. Jones, it doesn’t feel like the hackneyed scene it could have. The show doesn’t quite feel as natural as, say, Lost within this particular environment of the big event episode, but the show quite adequately and quite subtlely put itself into position for this finale over the past few weeks, and it was much more effective as a result.
As for whether it’s right up there with Abrams’ other shows in terms of finales, well, that’s a different story…but not an unpleasant one for the creator.
March 22nd, 2009
While the title above is fairly ambiguous, and HBO hasn’t come out and said what kind of finale this was in the end, the actual content of the episode spoke quite clearly: while this was not the season’s musical or comic highlight, it had that air of finality not just of some sort of season-long storyline but rather the very setup of the show. Offering up a meta-commentary wherein the show’s Bret and Jemaine move closer, albeit more wackily, to the commercialization of the real Bret and Jemaine feels like the way you end this series, not just a season, and coming back from the episode feels like it might not just be impossible, but also inadvisable.
And yet, at the same time, it also captures the reasons why the show is so charming, and why this second season has remained a weekly highlight even when I’ve been disappointed by much of the season’s musical interludes. The show found itself quite the comic voice as it headed into this season, and that’s something it has maintained with startling efficiency. While parts of this episode returned to more simple forms of humour that the show used in its original premise, the supporting characters around it have evolved so much further that it’s an entirely different show, and a better one.
So HBO and the Conchords have a very tough decision to make – is it good to go out while you’re still making people laugh and when you’ve crafted a satisfying conclusion, or do you want to continue to tell the story of the band that starts at the bottom, continues along the bottom, and ends up at the bottom for another season?
I’m still not sure which camp I find myself in.
“Return to Queens Boulevard”
November 24th, 2008
In the interest of full disclosure, I despised the fourth season of Entourage. It was, to my mind, a show with the absolute worst sense of direction: nowhere. They finished the movie, an admittedly really intriguing little exercise for the show, and then just sat around while it slowly (and mostly in the background in the hands of the incompetent Billy Walsh) imploded to the point of them getting booed out of Cannes. While one could argue the season had a plot, it certainly never properly developed it into character development.
By comparison, the fifth season started with Vince lounging in a secluded beach in Mexico, struggling with Medellin’s failure and not looking to get back in the game. What we saw over the season was a slow build, allowing us to see Eric’s career begin to expand (to the writers of Vince’s movie and to young comic Charlie) while Vince bounces into a picture that was doomed to failure from the beginning. Where we found them in the finale was on a different kind of holiday: no longer simply an escape from a depressive reality, Queens was the equivalent of giving up and going home to regroup. This was not, in other words, a vacation.
So, why did it end like one? One of the most frustration things about Entourage is how much Vince’s life feels inconsequential, that it seems as if this is one enormous vacation where everything will work out in the end based on wish fulfillment and purely illogical events, and that was never more clear than here. We entered the episode with one crisis, Vince’s lack of a job and his tainted name in Hollywood, and midway through there was even (in a stark comparison with the fourth season) a personal, character driven event. And yet, by the end, we’re wholly crisis free.
And that’s the last place Entourage needs to be.
“New York, New York”
November 19th, 2008
[NOTE: I go into what might be considered spoiler territory before the fold (it just worked out that way), so if you’re waiting until Spring and don’t want to know anything scroll away now! Hope this warning works – MM]
When Smash Williams received his swan song on Friday Night Lights, we ended that episode on an image of Smash’s face, smiling of pride (and his justifiably reinflated ego). It was a moment where you couldn’t help but feel like there was pride in his success, hope for his future, and that small tinge of disappointment that he was exiting our narrative and entering into another part of his life that doesn’t involve Dillon, Texas.
But for what will be Scott Porter’s last episode portraying Jason Street, we do not end on a shot of an admittedly fantastic Porter after pouring his heart out to Erin. Rather, we end on a shot of Tim Riggins, one that (for me) was far more emotionally affective. What is so amazing about Porter’s performance, and the character of Street as a whole, is that what could have been a hokey period after that pilot developed into someone who can serve as emotional and inspirational anchors for this series. While watching Smash succeed was satisfying, watching Jason grow into a man and a provider (even when the means were highly suspect) feels like the kind of story this show was born to tell: a story about a kid who was supposed to be on the path to greatness proving that, even when the terms changed, he never left that path.
And when we cut to Tim Riggins, of all people, overcome by emotion at the sight of Jason Street’s final moment, we realize that within both the show’s universe and our own, it doesn’t get much better than this.
“Out Here in the Fields”
October 9th, 2008
Over the summer, the internet was graced with what seemed like a gift: an early look at one of the fall’s most anticipated pilots, David E. Kelley’s adaptation of the British hit Life on Mars. People watched, and there was much negativity as it relates to the show’s relationship with the British original and generally what one would call a feeble opener for the series.
But then an amazing thing happened: the pilot changed. It changed producers, it changed locations, and it changed every one of its cast members but one. While I can’t speak to the British original (I know, I know, forgive me), I can say that these are, in fact, improvements across the board. It isn’t that the original cast was awful, but rather that they felt like an ensemble not quite capable enough to live up to the show’s premise. Here, we have a group of actors with some pedigree working on a show that, with some more refinement, can certainly rise to a higher level.
The biggest difference of all between these two pilots, though, is that this one has us wondering whether they can keep up this level of quality, and not whether they will be able to create any quality at all. Considering that a victory.